FIBA World Cup Preview Team USA tips off Round 2 vs. Giannis Greece
Streeter Lecka Getty Images
11 September, 2019, 04:47
In an unusual move, Team Greece chose to sit Giannis for the entire fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Team USA.
For more on how it all unfolded, here are a few takeaways from Team USA's big win. Had they lost, the Greeks were going to the classification round and relegated to no better than a 17th-place finish in the 32 team tournament. But frankly, the USA needs him to be a star on occasion, every bit as much as they need those turns from Kemba Walker or Donovan Mitchell.
Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers led the U.S. with 16 points and 8 rebounds.
Antetokounmpo was expected to be a big threat after playing relatively light minutes in the first stage, and while he scored 15 points with 13 rebounds he was -17 in his 27 minutes on the floor - the worst +/- rating of any Greece player.
France's Evan Fournier jumps with the ball as Australia's Matthew Dellavedova (center) tries to block during their 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Group L second-round game in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on Monday.
Team USA had all but secured its victory with about 1:40 left to play when Thanasis Antetokounmpo hit Harrison Barnes, who had a free dunk, from behind. He rotated players in from the weak side to bring double and sometimes even triple teams.
He said in the weeks leading up to the tournament that he would trade the MVP award for the World Cup crown. "He doesn't give up, and he tried to make a play, that's all it was", Walker said. This was not an attractive game but now more than a month into watching this group, it's clear that a world title is going to come ugly if it comes at all. "Obviously we've seen him play and he's a great player", Popovich said.
The Greek squad made a push in the fourth - while sitting Giannis for most of the quarter in one of the more freakish coaching decisions you'll ever see (they said it was to rest him for the next game) - it was too little, too late as the United States of America won comfortably, 69-53. He knows the mentality of the way they play.
Other than Antetokounmpo, the rest of the Greece team shot just 25 percent.
New Zealand rallied in the final minutes, with four players tallying double figures, but it was too little, too late. We knew we had to win this game in order to qualify for the quarter-finals. "Well, Giannis said something to me, really".
But having struggled to defeat Turkey in overtime in the first round, this Team USA missing its megastars seems to be warming to the task of taking home three World Cup crowns in a row.